Helloween/PlayStation Theater/March 1, 2016
Helloween was formed in 1983 in Hamburg, Germany, and quickly became a pioneering force in power metal, selling over eight million records and receiving 14 gold and six platinum awards. Twelve musicians have been a part of the band’s lineup in its history, which since 2005 has consisted of vocalist Andi Deris, guitarists Michael Weikath and Sascha Gerstner, bassist Markus Grosskopf, and drummer Daniel Löble. The band’s 15th studio album, My God-Given Right, was released on May 29, 2015.
Helloween came on stage at the PlayStation Theater to the recorded sound of the title track of 1985’s debut Walls Of Jericho album; this was a bold move, considering that the composition that was recorded before many in the audience were born. Once in place, the musicians charged into 1989’s “Eagle Fly Free,” mixing a bit of thrash metal with Iron Maiden-like vocal melodies. Even when the 18-song set moved into newer songs, the concert continued to pay homage to vintage 1980s power metal. In some ways, the performance sounded dated, but it accentuated the strength of that era of music, when clean metal dynamics and sterling instrumentation were more climactic and less abrasive. The songs featured speedy grooves, twin guitar leads, soaring vocals and occasional gang vocal harmonies on the choruses. Helloween also revived the old practice of guitar and drum solos towards the end of the nearly two-hour set. For those who were not yet attending concerts in the 1980s, Helloween’s concert was a teleport to that metal age.
Reed Turchi & The Caterwauls/Mercury Lounge/March 2, 2016
Reed Turchi grew up just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, where he learned to play boogie woogie and New Orleans style piano before moving to slide guitar. He learned to play Hill Country style of blues and founded a blues-rock trio, Turchi. Two years ago, the guitarist began collaborating with Italian guitarist Adriano Viterbini, leading to Scrapyard, a guitar duo album. Around the same time, Turchi the man disbanded Turchi the band and moved from North Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee, digging into new sounds and writing songs that incorporated all the styles he had learned. Turchi’s debut album, Speaking In Shadows, was released on March 4, 2016.
Reed Turchi & The Caterwauls (guitarist Joey Fletcher, keyboardist Heather Moulder, drummer Andrew McNeill) performed at several New York venues over a few days. At the Mercury Lounge, Turchi showed a variety of bluesy influences, as his guitar playing, his vocals and his songs all resourced the swampy grooves of America’s backwoods. Residing somewhere between J.J. Cale and ZZ Top, Turchi’s music had an Americana earthiness while shimmying with sparkling blues guitar-fueled jams. This rocking boogie music came with a swagger of bravado, and while it was not anything new, it was a style of music that is not heard enough.
Paul Burch/Sid Gold’s Request Room/March 3, 2016
Born and raised in rural Maryland and Virginia, Paul Burch’s family in the 1970s took him to concerts by Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and John Prine in the Washington D.C. area. In the early 1990s, Burch moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he became an occasional member of Lambchop and a popular mainstay with his backing band, the honky-tonking WPA Ballclub. Burch’s albums mined vintage country swing and rockabilly. His 10th album, Meridian Rising, an imagined musical biography of roots music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, was released on February 26, 2016.
In a rare visit to New York, Burch performed an underpublicized show at Sid Gold’s Request Room. Playing solo on guitar or with accompaniment from a pianist, Burch introduced his exploration of the life and legend of Jimmie Rodgers, sharing anecdotes and reinterpreting Rodgers’ songs. Burch also had Americana songstress Laura Cantrell join him on a few songs, and invited her to sing on the Rodgers theme by herself as well. The show was not the kind of rousing, swinging show Burch has performed in the past with his band, but instead spotlighted his smooth, husky voice and the formidable songs themselves. Burch alone on guitar retained an authentic old-timey sound, but for best results, Burch hopefully will bring along his skiffle band next time around.
The Struts/Irving Plaza/March 3, 2016
Luke Spiller was raised in Bristol, England, where at the age of seven he discovered pop music through Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album and felt inspired to become a dancer. By the age of 11, however, Spiller was listening to classic rock, and he began playing in bands as a teenager. In 2009, Spiller, then living in Clevedon, met Derby-based guitarist/songwriter Adam Slack, who also had been playing in bands since his teens. Spiller moved to Derby, where he and Slack lived, wrote, and recorded together for nearly three years, forming The Struts in 2010. The band presently lives in Los Angeles, California, and consists of vocalist Spiller, guitarist Slack, bassist Jed Elliott, and drummer Gethin Davies. The Struts reissued the debut album, Everybody Wants, on March 4, 2016, adding five songs not included on the original UK release in 2014.
The photo-ready hair, mascara and clothing will make The Struts a favorite pin-up image in teen circles, much like Black Veiled Brides. Indeed, the audience at Irving Plaza was young, but The Struts performed high energy rock and roll that knew no age limitations. The songs emphasized Spiller’s well-studied Freddie Mercury, as Spiller belted out a crisp, polished range beyond the capabilities of most rock singers. Meanwhile, the band rocked with full throttle guitar riffs and hard rocking rhythms. The songs were crafted as stadium-ready anthems, building crescendos with rallying chorus harmonies. The set included all but one song from the debut album, including live premieres of “The Ol’ Switcheroo,” “Mary Go Round” and “Young Stars.” Two surprises were a cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” and an acoustic version of “Black Swan.” The Struts closed with “Where Did She Go?”, complete with a massive amount of confetti shot from canons. Teenagers will make this glam band huge, but older rock fans also might be impressed with The Struts’ commitment to a classic sound.
Coheed And Cambria/The Theater at Madison Square Garden/March 4, 2016
While living in suburban Nyack, New York, Claudio Sanchez and Travis Stever transitioned together through several short-lived local bands. All the while, Sanchez was conceiving a series of science fiction graphic novels called The Bag.On.Line Adventures, later renamed The Amory Wars. In 1998, the musicians renamed their band Coheed And Cambria after two of the comics’ protagonists, and adopted the comics’ storyline as a theme that would unify their future albums. Coheed And Cambria’s eighth album, The Color Before The Sun, released on October 16, 2015, is the band’s eighth album and first album not connected to The Amory Wars. The progressive rock band presently consists of Sanchez (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Stever (guitar, backing vocals), Josh Eppard (drums, keyboards), and Zach Cooper (bass).
Headlining at The Theater At Madison Square Garden, Coheed And Cambria’s progressive rock was classy and artful, incorporating elements of pop, heavy metal, and post-hardcore. This in itself was remarkable, in that the band threaded the various sounds seamlessly, without stretching to extremes and risking a loss of identity. Whether Sanchez and Stever played a soft acoustic song and jelling their vocals for light harmonies, or whether the four piece powered into wall-shaking power rock, Sanchez’s smooth singing and Stever’s innovative guitar work gave each song both shine and depth. It was not necessary to follow the fantasy-laden storyline of the older songs to recognize that their performance was unique and stunning; the freedom granted by the scattered inclusion of seven new non-conceptual songs distracted from the sequence of the sci-fi adventure anyway. The concert demonstrated that Coheed And Cambria is at the start of a new adventure, and is bringing along the finely-minted excellence of its past.